Isolating at home when you have COVID-19

What to do if you feel sick, test positive for COVID-19 or are waiting for test results.

What to do

Get tested if you feel sick

See your COVID-19 testing options.

You should stay home while waiting for test results.

Stay home until you feel better

Do not go to work. Do not leave your home unless you are getting healthcare. Do not allow visitors into your home.

Rest and drink plenty of fluids. You may take acetaminophen (like Tylenol) to reduce fever and pain. Do not give any medicines to children under 2 without first checking with a doctor. 

If you test positive for COVID-19

You can stop your isolation when all of the following are true: 

  • Your temperature has gone under 100.4° Fahrenheit (38.0° Celsius) for the past 72 hours, without medicine like acetaminophen
  • Your cough or breathing problems have gotten better for the past 72 hours
  • It’s been at least 10 days after your first symptoms

If you test positive but don’t feel sick, stay home for at least 10 days after you took your test.

If your COVID-19 test comes back negative

If you test negative but still feel sick, stay at home for 72 hours after you first felt sick.

But if you work with older adults or people with pre-existing health conditions, consider staying home for at least 10 days after you first felt sick.

Limit contact with people you live with

Stay in your own room, if you can. Use a separate bathroom, if you can.

Do not prepare or serve food to others. Keep your own set of utensils, plates, towels, bedding, or other household items. Do not share them.

Limit your contact with pets.

Follow the personal hygiene and cleaning tips for staying healthy during the coronavirus outbreak. Wear a face covering, or have others wear a face covering around you.

Be especially careful around older adults and people with pre-existing health conditions. They are more likely to have serious COVID-19 complications. These vulnerable populations should wear a face covering or mask, even while at home, if they live with someone who has COVID-19.

If you have COVID-19, notify your close contacts

Try to remember who you had close contact with, in the 48 hours before you took your COVID-19 test. They must quarantine themselves at their home.

If you don’t want to reveal your identity to your close contacts, call 415-554-2830 for help.

Close contacts include anyone who:

  • Lives with you
  • You have sex with
  • Takes care of you 
  • You take care of
  • Stayed within 6 feet of you for more than 10 minutes when you were not wearing a face covering
  • Had direct contact with your body fluids while they were not wearing a facemask, gown, and gloves (usually healthcare workers)

Special cases

Children or people with special needs

People who need care do not need to isolate themselves at home.

Workers in skilled nursing facilities

You have more strict criteria for returning to work. See guidance for long term care facilities from the Department of Public Health.

Get help



Get help with food, housing, or other needs.

Last updated May 29, 2020